Nora lives in an upscale suburb where it just so happens a serial killer is on the loose. The latest disappearance of a woman who leaves a blood-drenched bedroom behind has Nora more embroiled in these killings than she ever wanted to be. And it makes her a new target.
That’s a really bad attempt at “The Basics" up there. Because all that was definitely true. The book is about a woman named Nora who comes face-to-face with a serial killer who makes her life hell. It’s also a book about a book, a fantasy classic Straub invented purely for this tale called Night Journey. In the midst of everything that’s happening to her, Nora takes it upon herself to solve the mysteries behind Night Journey, which proves to be a really satisfying arc. It’s also about Nora and Davey’s failing marriage, the fault of which lies mostly upon Davey’s father. Are you seeing how long “The Basics" could’ve gotten?
Normally this would be the part where I say the book was too busy and didn’t focus enough. This all sounds like a lot for a novel to carry, and it is, but it does all of it so incredibly well. It’s dense and packed with so much information and character development and twists and turns to the point of being epic, but it never felt like the novel was losing itself. It’s a long story well worth investing time in.
It has a strong lead in Nora, who carries this story while surrounded and hounded by a plethora of men who don’t understand her and yet imagine they have her figured out. I love reading a male writer who can find it within himself to connect with a female the way Straub did with Nora. He was with her every step of the way, therefore the reader is, as well.
This was my second attempt at Straub, and I’m glad I didn’t write him off. The first book I’d tried to read by him left me feeling confused and unsatisfied, to the point that I didn’t finish it. I wonder now if I was too young and easily distracted to appreciate what Straub does. He creates an atmosphere, and he doesn’t worry about whether what you’re seeing entirely makes sense. He concerns himself with what he’s making you feel. In the case of The Hellfire Club, it’s dread. Dread permeates this book, rises from it like a vapor, so that you can’t ignore it. It gets in the back of your mind and stays there. I feel like I had a full experience here because I decided to trust him even when things got surreal, and after worrying I was going to have to wash my hands of Straub, I’m ready to tackle another.